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    Default DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    #1:When you set up a recruitment thread, always use the 'Big 16':

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    1. What game system are you running (D&D, Call of Cthulu, Palladium, GURPS, etc.), and if applicable what edition (Original, Classic, Revised, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 10th, etc.)?

    2. What 'type' or variant of game will it be (i.e. "Shadow Chasers" or "Agents of Psi" for d20 Modern)? What is the setting for the game (eg. historic period, published or homebrewed campaign setting, alternate reality, modern world, etc.)?

    3. How many Players are you looking for? Will you be taking alternates, and if so, how many?

    4. What's the gaming medium (OOTS, chat, e-mail etc.)?

    5. What is the characters' starting status (i.e. experience level)?

    6. How much gold or other starting funds will the characters begin with?

    7. Are there any particular character classes, professions, orders, etc. that you want... or do not want? What are your rules on 'prestige' and/or homebrewed classes?

    8. What races, subraces, species, etc. are allowed for your game? Will you allow homebrewed races or species? 'Prestige' races or species?

    9. By what method should Players generate their attributes/ability scores and Hit Points?

    10. Does your game use alignment? What are your restrictions, if so?

    11. Do you allow multi-classing, or have any particular rules in regards to it?

    12. Will you be doing all of the die rolling during the course of the game? Will die rolls be altered, or left to the honor system? If players can make die rolls, which ones do they make, how should they make the rolls, and how should they report them?

    13. Are there any homebrewed or optional/variant rules that your Players should know about? If so, list and explain them, or provide relevant links to learn about these new rules.

    14. Is a character background required? If so, how big? Are you looking for anything in particular (i.e. the backgrounds all ending up with the characters in the same city)?

    15. Does your game involve a lot of hack & slash, puzzle solving, roleplaying, or a combination of the above?

    16. Are your Players restricted to particular rulebooks and supplements, or will you be allowing access to non-standard material? What sources can Players use for their characters?


    Also be sure to clearly label your game's edition with [4e D&D] as the very first portion of the recruitment thread's title.


    #2: Quality Control.
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    Specifically:

    Do not over-recruit. Your game will get bogged down in indecision/conflicts/debate/lags in response times. 4-6 is usually a good number, with maybe a couple of alternates on stand-by; all should meet the minimal criteria below though:

    Do screen for interested players by requesting a short background and character concept, and personality traits/basic appearance. Do not accept those who do not make the modicum of effort required for these.

    Do investigate the posting history of prospective players, including the quality of their RP, their post rates, and perhaps most importantly, how faithful they are/were to their past and present campaigns.



    #3: Set Up Your Game Properly.
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    Once you've picked your players and are ready to begin, it's time to set up your game. Make an IC and OOC thread with the following title: [4e D&D] Your-Campaign-Name-Here. You may want to add an (OOC) suffix to the OOC thread. Be sure to link these threads to each other in their respective original posts for ease of navigation; bonus points if you add links to both in your signature.

    Second, you'll want to port over any relevant information from the recruitment thread to the OOC original post, like important houserules, the pertinent background and history, etc...

    Finally, have a table prepared with the names of the players, their PCs, and their class and role. The name of their character should be hyperlinked to a copy of that character's sheet if applicable.

    Speech and Thought:

    Once done, you'll want to have your PCs adopt a system that clearly delineates speech and thought. Have each of them pick a colour. Speech should be bolded, while thought should be in italics. For those few characters that have telepathy, telepathic communication is both bold and italic.

    Images and Tokens:

    You'll want to get representative images of the PCs from each player to process into tokens for use in battlescapes. Once you have these images, proceed to the next step:



    #4: Use Online Resources For Combat Tracking:

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    Use Ditzie: http://ditzie.com/

    OR

    Pyromancers: http://pyromancers.com/dungeon-painter-online/

    OR my personal favourite

    Google Docs, via Google Drawings. Upload a map created in Maptools (see Map Generation), and tokens created with TokenTool (see Token Generation).

    Here is an sample map: https://docs.google.com/drawings/d/1...thkey=CPjiwKoF


    Both are invaluable for setting up combat maps that players can easily, quickly, and independently manipulate.

    Alternately, you can also use a spreadsheet grid via Google Docs, though this isn't quite as good as either of the above options it is much easier to set up.


    Register and set up a gallery of images, tokens, tilesets and the like for Ditzie here: http://beta.ditzie.com/gallery/main.php

    You can then produce a map at the following URL:
    http://beta.ditzie.com/your-registered-name-here

    Drag and drop images onto the area below to populate it with terrain, tokens, etc...

    You and your PCs can press Enter to save changes. Post the new URL of the saved combat map to the thread.

    Double clicking on an image allows you to adjust its dimensional properties.

    Shift+Click + Drag will resize your image.

    Map Generation:

    A good tool to use for map generation which you can generate a Ditzie uploadable image from is MapTools available here: http://www.rptools.net/index.php?page=downloads#MapTool

    This can also be used to host live games in real time, serving as a virtual table top.

    Token Generation:

    Token Tool from RPTools.net is excellent for this. You can get it at the same URL as MapTools; simply scroll down.

    This utility is straightforward and intuitive. Use it to create Ditzie uploadable tokens for your game. You can further customize token size in MapTools.

    Google Docs:

    Using online accessible spreadsheets like Google Docs can help you and your players better keep track of the combat, providing and updating important information quickly and independently.

    Set up characters and monsters as rows with columns for the following information as applicable/desired. If you use standard/conventional Initiative, you may also wish to enter turn order. Monster stats can be entered on a hidden/locked tab:

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    THP (Temporary Hit Points): XX
    HP: Current/Max
    Surges: Current/Max
    AC: XX
    Fort: XX
    Reflex: XX
    Will: XX
    Action Points: X
    Passive Perception: XX
    Passive Insight: XX
    Bloodied: Yes/No.
    Conditions: Dazed, Slowed, etc...
    Powers Used: List any limited use powers (Dailies, Encounters, etc...) here.
    Power Points: XX. Use only if applicable. Usually for select Psionic characters only.


    You can even add formulas that compare the defenses of monsters in the hidden/locked to numbers the player inputs. If you do this, make a row for the monsters in the public tab, along with one column for each of their defenses (AC, Reflex, etc...) and a Result column. The player makes his roll on the forums, then puts his roll result in the cell of the appropriate defense. The formula then compares that amount to that monster's targeted defense using the data in the private tab, and displays a Hit or Miss result as appropriate in the Result Column.

    Examples: Castlevania Combat Tracker

    https://spreadsheets.google.com/spre...hl=en_US#gid=0

    https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?...kE&hl=en#gid=0

    Harbinger of War

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/...hl=en_US#gid=2

    Google Documents: https://docs.google.com

    Thanks Master_Rahl22



    #5: Forget Conventional Initiative.
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    It just doesn't work in PbP games. Instead use group initiative. Group initiative comes in 4 main flavours:

    PC & Monster Group Initiative:
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    Directions: Bunch the PCs and/or monsters into groups. Every creature in these groups should more or less consider every other creature in the same group an ally. You may need to make multiple groups beyond the usual 'PCs' and 'monsters' in some situations (like a 3 way fight).

    Once done, roll initiative for the PCs and monsters. Use the _average_ initiative roll of each group to determine in what order the groups act. Members of each group can take their individual turns in any order when it's that group's turn to act. When all members of all groups have acted and finished their turns, proceed to the next round and repeat.

    Pros:
    • Simplifies and expedites combat the most of the four options.


    Cons:
    • Can be open to abuse; waiting until a healer takes a turn to act while unconscious for example.
    • Somewhat diminishes the value of high initiative elements, though these remain useful.
    • Can feature 'rocket tag' elements given that either side will have a full compliment of actions before the opposition can respond, making winning initiative perhaps too decisive.



    PC Group Initiative:
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    Directions: As per PC and Monster Group Initiative, except Monsters roll initiative and take turns as normal, before and/or after the PC group initiative as their initiative rolls determine. Optionally, you can have the monsters in a continuous sequence take their turns in any order within that sequence.

    Pros:
    • Prevents winning initiative from being too decisive for monsters.
    • Allows combat to be more faithful to the normal rules.
    • Allows high initiative monsters to extricate more benefit from their initiative stat.


    Cons:
    • Can be open to abuse for the PCs; waiting until a healer takes a turn to act while unconscious for example.
    • Winning initiative can prove too decisive for the PCs since they get a full round of actions before the monsters can respond.
    • Complicates and slows the game more than PC & monster group initiative.
    .


    Monster Group Initiative:
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    Directions: As per PC and Monster Group Initiative, except PCs roll initiative and take turns as normal, before and/or after the Monster group initiative as their initiative rolls determine.

    Pros:
    • Prevents winning initiative from being too decisive for PCs.
    • Allows combat to be more faithful to the normal rules.
    • Allows high initiative PCs to extricate more benefit from their initiative stat.


    Cons:
    • Can be open to abuse for the monsters; focus firing on a single target, or deliberately not taking a turn so an end of turn effect can remain in place longer and benefit allies.
    • Winning initiative can prove too decisive for the monsters since they get a full round of actions before the monsters can respond.
    • Complicates and slows the game more than PC & monster group initiative.
    .


    Hybrid Group & Conventional Initiative:
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    Directions: PCs and Monsters individually roll initiative, then are organized into blocks with other PCs or Monsters that are continguous in the initiative order. The PCs and Monsters in these blocks can act in any order relative to each other.

    Pros:
    • Prevents winning initiative from being too decisive for PCs or Monsters.
    • Allows combat to be more faithful to the normal rules.
    • Allows high initiative PCs to extricate more benefit from their initiative stat.


    Cons:
    • Complicates and slows the game more than PC & monster group initiative.
    .



    While the pro/con balance at a glance seems to favour other methods, my general view is that group initiative for PCs & monsters is likely the best for most PbP groups, as the sheer increase in combat simplicity and speed is a huge positive that dwarfs all others.

    Regardless of which option you choose, roll, or have the PCs roll initiative ahead of time to help expedite things.

    Effect Durations:

    If you don't mind adding a degree of complexity, when it comes to creatures using group initiative, effects that would end/trigger at the start or end of a player's turn do so on the turn the player acted on last round, or the player's current turn; whichever would come first in the round.

    For example: if last round a player imposed an effect that lasts until the end of his next turn on turn 2 (his position in turn order) of 10 (total number of turns in the round), and this round took his turn on 1/10, that effect would end at the end of turn 1/10 because it comes before 2/10. If instead he took his turn on 3/10, the effect would end at the end of turn 2/10, because it was his position in the turn order last round, and comes before his current turn position of 3/10.

    Note that if your group is especially responsive, conventional initiative is preferable. Group initiative is a necessary evil meant to help reduce the considerable delays inherent in most PbP games.



    #6: Keep Combat Moving!

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    This goes for the game as a whole, but combat especially. To keep combat moving, insist on a post rate of a minimum of 1 per 24 hours, otherwise a player's default actions are taken, or the player is outright zombied (taken over) by another player of their choice or the DM. The player can choose what his default actions are (move/shift away from enemy as safely as possible, take total defense, or make an at-will attack, whatever).

    Zombying preferences/default actions are chosen by players ahead of time.


    Also have your players post their actions in easily understandable formats that provide relevant information at a glance. Also include any Immediate Interrupts/Reactions/Triggered/Opportunity Actions you wish to take for the round, as well as their triggers, and rolls/effects if applicable. It may be a good idea to allow players to 'verify' their triggered actions at the end of each round, depending on your group's responsiveness.

    When it comes to listing actions, use only those lines that are applicable; Move Actions for example, usually don't require attack and hit lines.

    For example:

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    Combat Stat Block Template:

    HP: Current/Max
    Surges: Current/Max
    AC: XX
    Fort: XX
    Reflex: XX
    Will: XX
    Action Points: X
    Passive Perception: XX
    Passive Insight: XX
    Used Powers: Put your expended powers here, along with remaining uses if applicable: (Current/Max)


    Template for Taking an Action:

    Action Type (Standard/Move/etc...): Your action/power here. Colour your attacks in bolded coloured text: At-Wills in Green text, Encounters in DarkRed, Dailies in DarkSlateGray
    Trigger: (If applicable)
    Target: (If applicable)
    Attack vs Defense (AC/Fort/etc...): (If applicable, put your rolls here.)
    Hit Damage: (If applicable, put your rolls here.)
    Hit Effects: (If applicable)
    Miss Damage: (If applicable)
    Miss Effects: (If applicable)
    Automatic Effects: (If applicable)


    Interrupts/Triggered Actions:

    If you need to retcon something because of interrupts and other triggered actions, don't be afraid to do so. This is especially true of grouped initiative described above; generally, because players and monsters act in blocks, this tends to be easier and less disruptive as a whole than if you were using conventional initiative.



    #7: Communicate With Your Players.

    Ask them what they want, and what they don't like. Listen to their suggestions. Tailor your campaign to their tastes as best you can given its constraints. Have your characters come up with wish lists and substitute standard treasure with level appropriate requested gear on those lists.

    Work together to make the experience as fun as possible for all parties; the PCs are not your enemies, nor is the opposite true.


    #8: Avoid Off-Turn Actions/Powers.

    Like the plague; this goes for DM and players alike, especially where forced movement/other serious changes are involved that demand retcons. These are some of the biggest and most notorious causes of bog down in the play by post format. If these do/must see use, you must insist on players defining their triggers, intention to use triggered/off-turn powers and resultant actions as clearly and completely as possible ahead of time or everyone will regret it.


    #9: Obey EL Ratings

    Use this utility: http://www.kassoon.com/dnd/encounter-builder/

    As a rule of thumb your encounter level (EL, also known as Challenge Level or CL; Pg 57 of the Dungeon Master Guide has more details), including traps, should never exceed EL+4 plus the tier level (+1 for Heroic, +2 for Paragon, +3 for Epic). Note also that even this may be extreme for many groups, and that such a max difficulty encounter should, as a rule, only be visited on high optimization groups, and/or groups with all of their limited resources available. With a group that has an unknown level of optimization, you should start weak, and then escalate encounter difficulty until you reach the desired level of difficulty.

    Also note the complicating elements/force multipliers terrain might pose with regards to EL. Obstacles like pits and chasms will disfavour non-flying melee PCs/creatures for example, while significantly advantaging flying & ranged PCs/creatures. Conversely, cramped quarters will favour melee over ranged combatants as a rule, unless the ranged combatant has viable means of avoiding Opportunity Attacks.


    #10: Use MM3 Standards, Progression and Convention

    In Monster Manual 3, monster scaling and standards were updated and improved dramatically. Convert everything that uses the older MM1 and MM2 conventions to this new standard if you can.

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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Surrealistik View Post
    #4: Forget Conventional Initiative. It just doesn't work in PbP games. Instead, bunch the PCs and monsters into groups. Every creature in these groups should more or less consider every other creature in the same group an ally. You may need to make multiple groups beyond the usual 'PCs' and 'monsters' in some situations (like a 3 way fight).

    Once done, roll initiative for the PCs and monsters. Use the _average_ initiative roll of each group to determine in what order the groups act. Members of each group can take their individual turns in any order when it's that group's turn to act. When all members of all groups have acted and finished their turns, proceed to the next round and repeat.

    Have the PCs roll initiative ahead of time to help expedite things.
    Personally, I hate this. I see a lot of people using it, but it is very unappealing to me--it takes out a lot of interesting timing issues with abilities, creates some problems (if I'm in group A initiative and unconscious, and someone else in group A heals me, do I get my full turn and avoid a death save? Ooo, I can cheese this by intentionally not posting until a healer gets me back up, not to mention the potential cheese with "until end of X's next turn" powers), and especially creates bland combat for monsters that take multiple turns (effectively, they just act a few times in a row, which is clearly not the intent).

    Thankfully, I can make multiple combat updates per day (and so can many of my players), so using regular initiative hasn't been a problem. It's also much easier when I'm only posting the turns of 1-2 monsters. I find it stifling to post an update that contains the turns of an entire encounter group worth of monsters, as it actually feels like more work to me than posting individual turns.

    Of course, I suppose DMs that simply don't have the time to update often pretty much need that kind of rule. I don't think it fits every scenario, though, and I do feel it makes the combat less interesting.

    As far as initiative goes, you might consider another option: just roll initiative for your players. The only exception should be if one or more of the PCs has certain powers or features that give them an actual choice to make when rolling initiative.

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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    I second that. I find that group initiative can really complicate things in much the same way and if your group goes after all the monsters and the monsters get half decent rolls and attack intelligently, they can take down one or two PCs before the players even get to go.
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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    It really is a necessary evil, and the 'cheese' elements are often a two way street for PCs and Monsters alike so that remains roughly balanced, though granted, it can turn some combats into a bit of a rocket tag. That said though, trying to play it straight just causes more grief, delays and trouble than it's worth in my experience (and I'm sure the experience of many others). If you can get a _really_ responsive group together, then great (I'll put in a note about that), otherwise, I'm strongly of the opinion that group initiative is the best solution, and by default will work best for the majority of PbP games.

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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Surrealistik View Post
    #4: Forget Conventional Initiative. It just doesn't work in PbP games. Instead, bunch the PCs and monsters into groups.
    What if initiative still happened in the usual order, but everyone posted their actions up front? You'd say everyone has until a set time to get their actions in and then you'd evaluate those actions (or the defaults if anyone was late) in the correct order.

    I've seen this used in tabletop. It slowed us down a lot. But it felt more realistic. It seemed like we were acting simultaneously and then reacting to what happened, rather than taking turns.

    I don't think the slow down would be a factor in PbP and it would probably even make the game go faster since you don't need a GM response between each player action and players still get to post actions in whatever order they like. You might have to allow for simple contingencies. Something like "heal anyone who is bloodied; if nobody is bloodied, attack with encounter power."
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

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    AssassinGuy

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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    With separate initiatives, you can always have a time limit and then the pc goes on delay until they return and just change the initiative order to reflect their new location.
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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    What if initiative still happened in the usual order, but everyone posted their actions up front? You'd say everyone has until a set time to get their actions in and then you'd evaluate those actions (or the defaults if anyone was late) in the correct order.

    I've seen this used in tabletop. It slowed us down a lot. But it felt more realistic. It seemed like we were acting simultaneously and then reacting to what happened, rather than taking turns.

    I don't think the slow down would be a factor in PbP and it would probably even make the game go faster since you don't need a GM response between each player action and players still get to post actions in whatever order they like. You might have to allow for simple contingencies. Something like "heal anyone who is bloodied; if nobody is bloodied, attack with encounter power."
    It could work to a point, but sometimes (more and more often as the levels increase) the battlefield can drastically change over the course of 2-3 turns (not rounds, turns), which can make things very complex and force the DM to wait for revisions, slowing the game down.

    I agree with the 'necessary evil' of posting as initiative groups for PbP games for the most part. It might be necessary to make some special rules for it, however, just to keep things clear and cheese-free (monsters usually don't worry about healing after dropping to 0 HP, for example, so that's one thing that doesn't go both ways). I might suggest that start-turn and end-turn effects are handled per initiative group rather than per individual turns, and perhaps an individual that begins their group-turn unconscious but is healed only has one action for that turn (or loses their standard action, at least).

    For more active groups, a compromise might be to divide the PCs and monsters into multiple, high/low initiative groups, using a certain average for a cut-off point. The right balance may come down to the individuals involved.

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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillric View Post
    With separate initiatives, you can always have a time limit and then the pc goes on delay until they return and just change the initiative order to reflect their new location.
    Unfortunately that comes with yet more book keeping, and delay compounding still exists, even with time limits, because everyone still has to wait on the people prior to post.

    Further, while I realize the DM should probably be the most active of all, default initiative puts a lot of onus and pressure on him to constantly monitor the game and look back, lest he hold up his players. This can get _really_ bad with a lot of fragmentation between the player and monster turns.

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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    No, a delay means you hold your turn and move in initiative, you don't wait for them to go. Time limit hits and it becomes the next players turn or monster. I am in a game were we are using this and it is working quite well so far.
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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Gillric View Post
    No, a delay means you hold your turn and move in initiative, you don't wait for them to go. Time limit hits and it becomes the next players turn or monster. I am in a game were we are using this and it is working quite well so far.
    As in, you have to wait up to 24 hours per player before the turn delay kicks in; that can make for considerable amounts of time wasted.

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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    I find group initiative works if handled properly.

    First of all, you have the players roll init and each monster roll init. The players have their initiative averaged and are placed amongst the monsters so usually there are 'monsters who go before' and 'monsters who go after'. This means the combat starts off with the DM only posting half a round usually but it quickly turns into one group at a time (with the DM's turn going from the end of one round to the start of another).

    This can also be done in reverse if your players vary wildly on initiative (or if it's group preference). Monster init is averaged and the monsters are placed amongst the players. It ends up working out the same way as the situation above but gives players who could use high init effectively a boost.

    Next, I find it's best that you know your player's characters. This way you can tell who is going to be able to throw out anything higher than the basic OA. Players who have these options can cut them in but see if you can get them to give you some indication of when they'd like to use it (ie: "This round." or "Only when monster X gives me the opportunity.") This also requires that players give their conscent to you to make OA rolls for them.

    Thirdly, status effects and marks wear off via initiative, even if the groups are acting as groups. If the Rogue has higher init than the fighter and doesn't state that he's holding his turn then he won't benefit from any mark bonuses the fighter throws out this round until the next round.

    Finally, don't be afraid to retcon if needed. Did your bard's virtue of valor just save a PC from death because it technically occured before? The PC never dropped then. Retcon your post.

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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Nu View Post
    It could work to a point, but sometimes (more and more often as the levels increase) the battlefield can drastically change over the course of 2-3 turns (not rounds, turns), which can make things very complex and force the DM to wait for revisions, slowing the game down.
    I'd be curious to see how it worked out if players couldn't react until their next turn. In the interest of not turning the game into Robo Rally, I'd allow players to say "I move to the Orc," rather than having them specify exact squares. I agree that there's a good chance it'll go badly, but I'd like to see how. I wonder if RPG combat could be built around this kind of declare actions, then evaluate type of play (assuming it hasn't already been done).

    Now I'm tempted to do a battle like this in my tabletop game. I'm not sure how to explain it thematically, other than BSing about a mass time stop or something. I'd like to see what sort of tactics emerge as the players adjust to this sort of change.
    If you like what I have to say, please check out my GMing Blog where I discuss writing and roleplaying in greater depth.

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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    I'd be curious to see how it worked out if players couldn't react until their next turn. In the interest of not turning the game into Robo Rally, I'd allow players to say "I move to the Orc," rather than having them specify exact squares. I agree that there's a good chance it'll go badly, but I'd like to see how. I wonder if RPG combat could be built around this kind of declare actions, then evaluate type of play (assuming it hasn't already been done).

    Now I'm tempted to do a battle like this in my tabletop game. I'm not sure how to explain it thematically, other than BSing about a mass time stop or something. I'd like to see what sort of tactics emerge as the players adjust to this sort of change.
    For many systems, this would be fine.

    4E's combat is designed to be very tactical, however, and is more interesting when precisely defined. It probably could work, but I think it would suffer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    I'd be curious to see how it worked out if players couldn't react until their next turn. In the interest of not turning the game into Robo Rally, I'd allow players to say "I move to the Orc," rather than having them specify exact squares. I agree that there's a good chance it'll go badly, but I'd like to see how. I wonder if RPG combat could be built around this kind of declare actions, then evaluate type of play (assuming it hasn't already been done).

    Now I'm tempted to do a battle like this in my tabletop game. I'm not sure how to explain it thematically, other than BSing about a mass time stop or something. I'd like to see what sort of tactics emerge as the players adjust to this sort of change.
    If I'm remembering correctly, that's how you are supposed to handle World of Darkness combat (it's been a long, long time). Whoever has the worst initiative declares their action, then the next slowest, and so on until you have the person who goes first. They go first, but they know what everyone else will do. You can abort to do something else (say, if someone performed an action that made your declared action moot) but you take a penalty for doing so.

    The reason I say that I can't remember 100% for sure is because we never really used that rule. It was just simpler to start at the top of initiative and work your way down.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcrudisi View Post
    The reason I say that I can't remember 100% for sure is because we never really used that rule. It was just simpler to start at the top of initiative and work your way down.
    We tried it and never quite liked it. People always ended up changing their actions. Maybe we were ignoring the indecision penalty? In a system that penalizes you for getting hit, getting the chance to hit someone before they hit you was a big enough advantage that knowing what your opponent was doing that turn seemed like overkill.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcrudisi View Post
    If I'm remembering correctly, that's how you are supposed to handle World of Darkness combat (it's been a long, long time). Whoever has the worst initiative declares their action, then the next slowest, and so on until you have the person who goes first. They go first, but they know what everyone else will do. You can abort to do something else (say, if someone performed an action that made your declared action moot) but you take a penalty for doing so.

    The reason I say that I can't remember 100% for sure is because we never really used that rule. It was just simpler to start at the top of initiative and work your way down.
    Changing your action increased the difficulty by 2. Since most attacks had standard difficulties of 6-7, it was a big deal to go 8-9.

    The inverse initiative order also worked for extra actions (celerity/rage) where after the entire round of combat was played out and then an "extra" round of combat (with reverse initiative again) would play out for those who had extra actions. However this only counted as one full round of combat no matter how many "extra" rounds played out.

    This gives a HUGE advantage to winning initiative, but I don't think will make PbP any faster...
    Last edited by evirus; 2011-03-30 at 01:28 PM.

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    Regarding the group initiative, one game I'm in uses it and the DM said that EONT type effects can only be taken advantage of once. For example, if I use a power that lowers the monster's defenses until my EONT, the rogue couldn't use that bonus by posting after me in the same round, and then posting before me in the next. He'd have to choose which turn the bonus applied to.

    One addition I'd like to see to your excellent guide Surrealistik is the use of a combat spreadsheet on Google docs or similar. Here is the spreadsheet we use. The initial setup might take a while, but essentially you setup characters and monsters as rows with columns for their defenses, HP left (damage taken for monsters), and notes. The DM then puts the defenses, HP and bloodied value for all of the monsters for the encounter on a separate (locked or hidden tab) and sets up formulas for comparing values against them. When the players take their turns, they can update allies HP if they heal them and update locations of anybody for forced movement effects. For attacks, they post the attack roll in the appropriate column for the defense it targeted, and the formula compares that value against the stored defense. It then displays Hit or Miss.

    The benefits are that players instantly know whether or not they hit and how much damage they did, whether the attack bloodied the monster, etc. They can then edit their post to describe the epic crit they landed that killed the ogre, or the horrible miss that they recovered from to do xyz. It allows players to take their turns without 3 or 4 nested IF THEN statements since they can just post the rolls and figure out what happened themselves. It allows leaders to see at a glance who needs healing, or strikers to see that this monster just got a penalty to defenses and was bloodied, or whatever. It makes combat very smooth, and the DM doesn't even need to check rolls against defenses and all that later, just post the new actions.
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    Inverse initiative: (In this example loser refers to the one who has rolled lowest for initiative, and winner refers to the one who rolled highest. The term pieces is used to denote the equivalent of characters or units.)

    BattleTech works this way but its further separated into three distinct phases per round.

    1st phase, Movement: loser moves one of his pieces, winner moves one of his pieces, repeat until all pieces are moved.

    2nd phase, ranged attacks: loser selects the target and weapons of one piece, winner selects the target and weapons of one piece, repeat until all pieces are used.
    At this point all selected attacks are rolled and damage is applied simultaneously.

    3rd phase, melee attacks: Loser chooses target and attacks of one piece, winner chooses target and attacks of one piece, repeat until all pieces are used.
    At this point all attacks are rolled and damage is applied simultaneously.

    Of course this is intended to reflect combat happening all at the same time.

    For 4e, you could remove the two separate attack phases and then roll two initiatives one for players vs. DM and then one each for all the DM's monsters inside his forces, and the players inside their party.

    This would of course cause all sorts of oddness, and most likely work better for a live game then a PbP, but still has interesting consequences.
    Last edited by Shyftir; 2011-03-30 at 05:19 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Master_Rahl22 View Post
    One addition I'd like to see to your excellent guide Surrealistik is the use of a combat spreadsheet on Google docs or similar. Here is the spreadsheet we use. The initial setup might take a while, but essentially you setup characters and monsters as rows with columns for their defenses, HP left (damage taken for monsters), and notes. The DM then puts the defenses, HP and bloodied value for all of the monsters for the encounter on a separate (locked or hidden tab) and sets up formulas for comparing values against them. When the players take their turns, they can update allies HP if they heal them and update locations of anybody for forced movement effects. For attacks, they post the attack roll in the appropriate column for the defense it targeted, and the formula compares that value against the stored defense. It then displays Hit or Miss.
    Added a section to the guide about this, and credited it. Thanks Rahl.

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    I use group initiative for different timezones, and it works fine for me.

    What about interrupts?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Katana_Geldar View Post
    I use group initiative for different timezones, and it works fine for me.

    What about interrupts?
    Partially addressed by suggesting that players post their Interrupts/Triggered actions, but I felt the point needed a little more elaboration, particularly for the DM, so I added the following:

    Interrupts/Triggered Actions:

    If you need to retcon something because of interrupts and other triggered actions, don't be afraid to do so. This is especially true of grouped initiative described above; generally, because players and monsters act in blocks, this tends to be easier and less disruptive as a whole than if you were using conventional initiative.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Katana_Geldar View Post
    What about interrupts?
    I'd actually consider requiring players to list interrupts in advance. Maybe even limiting them. For each turn the player lists their move, minor, standard, and a couple interrupts. Maybe 1 or 2 interrupts/triggesr per tier of play? I don't really know how many interrupts PCs get at high levels though or if this would gimp anyone.
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    As far as the number of interrupts/triggers that a PC would have, just as an example I have a level 2 Avenger with 3 not counting item powers.
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    Quote Originally Posted by valadil View Post
    I'd actually consider requiring players to list interrupts in advance.
    I try to set mine up in computer programming lingo.

    If monster hits ally and beats ally's defense by less than 4, I use this power as an immediate interrupt. If it hits, subtract 4 from the monsters attack. (Then I go ahead and spoiler the roll to hit and damage.)

    If monster hits ally and beats the ally's defense by 4 or more, I use this power as an immediate reaction. (The I would spoiler the attack roll and damage.)

    If the monster attacks me? Poor, poor monster. He takes the following attack to the face as an immediate reaction ...

    You get the idea.
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    Yes, it is suggested in the guide that players who want to make immediate interrupts (and other similar actions) list it in their spoilered declaration of actions like any other power/action, along with all the relevant details, like rolls, damage, and triggers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Surrealistik View Post
    Yes, it is suggested in the guide that players who want to make immediate interrupts list it in their spoilered declaration of actions like any other power/action, along with all the relevant details, like rolls, damage, and triggers.
    Making interrupts work a lot like the old contigency spell right?

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    That is the best way I've seen for handling interrupts. When you're all together at the same time, whether at a table or all on some sort of chat/Skype/whatever, then it's not a big deal to say, "Wait! I'm going to interrupt and use XYZ power." In PbP, if say the first monster does something that triggers your interrupt, the DM will have done all the rest of the monster actions, and maybe even a few PCs get their actions in before you pop up with your interrupt. Declaring it beforehand is just better, although it requires either very strict logic like tcrudisi mentioned, or for the DM to understand the intent of it and not waste it, i.e. shifting a monster away to use up a Fighter's Combat Challenge so he can't use it instead on the big scary thing hitting his party members.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sipex View Post
    This can also be done in reverse if your players vary wildly on initiative (or if it's group preference). Monster init is averaged and the monsters are placed amongst the players. It ends up working out the same way as the situation above but gives players who could use high init effectively a boost.
    I find this to be the preferable method. All players roll initiative seperately, all monsters use one initiative roll with an averaged initiative. Sides move in initiative blobs where the order does not really matter (those that beat the monster initiative simply move first at the very beginning of the battle), just make sure that nobody benefits from a short-term buff or other advantage for a longer period than they would if you used normal initiative. Spotting attempts at cheesing out this initiative method is easy.

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    Default Re: DMing 4e PbP Games: A Guide

    Expanded on Section #4 to include popular group initiative variants.

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    Expanded Section #3 to include the MapTool and TokenTool utilities, as well as their download links.

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