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  1. - Top - End - #1
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Play by Post Combat Without Dice

    I've always found PbP to be a pretty fair substitute for IRL gaming when the time simply can't be made for the latter. However it of course has its downsides, namely people ghosting due to boredom, loss of interest, or pacing issues. I've noticed that this tends to happen even more in and around combat scenes. At the table combat has the potential to be the center point of an evening and even seems to be some people's primary reason to attend a session. Online it's a great way to turn people off because of how even a single round might stretch into days of waiting, and mapping can be a big time sink on the DM's side.

    My thought was what if combat scenes could be handled in the same manner as narrative ones. Players declare their intentions and things happen, no rolling involved. I don't think this would entirely remove drama and suspense from the game. When is the last time a party actually lost a fight to the bandits anyways? And a TPK is certainly not the goal of any campaign.

    So, has anyone ever tried something like this before? Does anyone have any suggestions for how to do it right?
    Last edited by TheBarbecueChip; 2019-05-27 at 08:11 PM.

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    GreataxeFighterGuy

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by TheBarbecueChip View Post
    My thought was what if combat scenes could be handled in the same manner as narrative ones. Players declare their intentions and things happen, no rolling involved. I don't think this would entirely remove drama and suspense from the game. When is the last time a party actually lost a fight to the bandits anyways? And a TPK is certainly not the goal of any campaign.

    So, has anyone ever tried something like this before? Does anyone have any suggestions for how to do it right?

    Each player could post a list of what they'd like to accomplish in combat and then the DM could roll it all himself. This is extra work for the DM, but it's not unmanageable. The biggest issue is that no one knows the result of the combat until it's all over and they can't change their actions in response. I play in a (live) group where we try to be tactical in combat and my PC spends some time during combat "managing" the battle. A system where there's no chance for PCs to react to conditions during combat would reduce their effectiveness overall.
    Last edited by Mars Ultor; 2019-05-15 at 06:54 AM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by Mars Ultor View Post
    Each player could post a list of what they'd like to accomplish in combat and then the DM could roll it all himself. This is extra work for the DM, but it's not unmanageable. The biggest issue is that no one knows the result of the combat until it's all over and they can't change their actions in response. I play in a (live) group where we try to be tactical in combat and my PC spends some time during combat "managing" the battle. A system where there's no chance for PCs to react to conditions during combat would reduce their effectiveness overall.
    Well effectiveness isn't really an issue in what I'm proposing. I'm treating victory as a foregone conclusion and not even the DM would roll behind the scenes. Outcomes of battles could still vary based on what tactics the players want to employ, and they could still change their minds and provide additional input mid-fight, but no breaking out grids and maps and no rolling hits or damage.

    The fighter just says I call out a challenge and square up with the biggest opponent. The rogue says I skulk around peppering the mages with arrows. The cleric says I bolster the fighter and wade in with my mace. And the wizard says I erect a wall of force to block their escape. And then it all happens. The DM describes a fight and the party then moves on to exploring/looting the room/progressing the plot of the story.

  4. - Top - End - #4
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    Kobold

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    I put a lot of "ifs and thens". For example:

    "I cast Hold Person on the guy with the scimitar. If he passes his save, then I move behind Greg to break line of charge. If he fails his save, then I move towards the guy with the longspear (I don't care about the AoO) to allow the Greg to flank him on his round"

    DM makes all the rolls, you just say what you want and how you want.

    This works really well, but then again, it's only Greg and I at the table

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by heavyfuel View Post
    I put a lot of "ifs and thens". For example:

    "I cast Hold Person on the guy with the scimitar. If he passes his save, then I move behind Greg to break line of charge. If he fails his save, then I move towards the guy with the longspear (I don't care about the AoO) to allow the Greg to flank him on his round"

    DM makes all the rolls, you just say what you want and how you want.

    This works really well, but then again, it's only Greg and I at the table
    This is still just moving all the rolls behind the screen and changing the tone for combat encounters. That's not what I'm talking about. To put it in 5e terms I was wondering if anyone had any advice for running a game with only exploration and interaction, leaving combat out entirely. If the party fighter says "I kill the goblin," well then he kills the goblin, no rolls required. He could do it anyways under the normal rules but it would take a bunch of posts and a lot of time. I'm proposing that he just does it the same way he would say "I loot the bodies"

  6. - Top - End - #6
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    Kobold

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by TheBarbecueChip View Post
    This is still just moving all the rolls behind the screen and changing the tone for combat encounters. That's not what I'm talking about. To put it in 5e terms I was wondering if anyone had any advice for running a game with only exploration and interaction, leaving combat out entirely. If the party fighter says "I kill the goblin," well then he kills the goblin, no rolls required. He could do it anyways under the normal rules but it would take a bunch of posts and a lot of time. I'm proposing that he just does it the same way he would say "I loot the bodies"
    So... The players are omnipotent? If they say "I want to rule the kingdom, so during an audience with the king, I walk up to him and kill him. I also kill any guards that try to stop me." They do that?

    If they meet a great wyrm, can they say "I shoot my bow aiming at his heart" and insta kill it?

  7. - Top - End - #7
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by heavyfuel View Post
    So... The players are omnipotent? If they say "I want to rule the kingdom, so during an audience with the king, I walk up to him and kill him. I also kill any guards that try to stop me." They do that?

    If they meet a great wyrm, can they say "I shoot my bow aiming at his heart" and insta kill it?
    Obviously, the goal would be to set limits which would avoid that, and also to discuss with players that their combat prowess is constrained by the scope of the story. Hence my presence here trying to see if anyone has done something similar and what their results were. Clearly if something like this were attempted with a party of murder hobos it would go remarkably badly remarkably quickly.

    I also realize that this approach would not lend itself well to certain genres of play, such as sandboxes or dungeon crawling. In fact what I had in mind was running one of the Pathfinder APs such as Rise of the Runelords or Curse of the Crimson Throne. Something with a strong narrative structure punctuated by fight scenes. Quite regularly I've been in or tried to run PbP games with these modules and had them fall apart at an early fight scene when people seemed to be quite thoroughly enjoying the exploration and interaction parts of the game.

    Edit: And the solution you your Kingdom example, even if we allowed the player to be omnipotent, would be "Nobody accepts your claim as legitimate and you have the option of either leaving or ruling a pile of corpses."
    Last edited by TheBarbecueChip; 2019-05-15 at 08:54 AM.

  8. - Top - End - #8
    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Daemon

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    This edition may not be ideal for play by post but you can do as much hand waving as DMs already do for social situations. Personally I think if you're doing a forum game, combat should be the least of your worries. So speed it up! Weaklings are foregone conclusions and defeated with ease, possibly expending resources. Create tables of bad effects that may or may not happen to the party, allowing them to respond with how they'll treat them. Perhaps they'll ignore them and suffer a penalty to their next Defeat All Monsters combat check roll.

    The idea is to just move along. Combat's not important. The players win. End of story. Maybe have boss fights actually play out if you have a weekend when everyone's available and online.

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    Kobold

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Extremely personal opinion here: Combat is one of my favourite parts of role playing games. Second only to, well, role playing. As such I wouldn't like to be part in a game where combat isn't a thing. If you're playing PF, I guess your players share a similar position, as there is plenty of games that aren't so combat heavy. Have you talked to them? You can't DM if you don't have players, and if the players want combat, there's not much you can do. [/end personal opinion]

    Quote Originally Posted by TheBarbecueChip View Post
    Obviously, the goal would be to set limits which would avoid that, and also to discuss with players that their combat prowess is constrained by the scope of the story.
    How exactly would you set these limits?

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    GreenSorcererElf

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Playing without rolls is not recommended. Rolls make the experience far better. If rolls aren't good enough, I suggest adding butter or jam to your rolls to add extra flavor. Alternatively, if you just cannot have rolls, may I suggest biscuits or baked bread as viable alternatives?
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Hall View Post
    So, your roleplaying guide is pretty much "Live Fast, Die Young, Leave a confusing corpse"?

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    Goblin

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    I've thought about this in the past and haven't found a solution that makes me happy. But I'll suggest some compromise elements.

    Have each player declare an overall goal for the combat. E.G. Stay alive and kill as many opponents as possible. Get to the door and prevent any opponents from escaping. Keep the princess alive.

    Have each player provide a more verbose description for each round. E.G. I will cast magic-missile at the opponent who looks the strongest and then move to the nearest cover. I am trying to stay out of melee engagement so I can continue to attack with my distance weapons.

    As much as possible agree on a standard format to make it easier for the DM to read and to help prevent the players from forgetting something.

    Set a time limit. If the players fail to declare specific actions for the round within the allotted time you decide what they do based on their declared overall goal. If they haven't set an overall goal then they are surprised.

    Roll the dice. It introduces a necessary layer of chance to the game.

    Summarize what happened during the round in one or two paragraphs, be descriptive.

    This is still a somewhat involved process but if you have 5 players you need 5 different sets of communications to complete a single round. This process cuts that down by a factor of 5 and allows you to be quicker while still retaining a good degree of player agency.

    Interested to read what others have to say on this.

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    Dimers's Avatar

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    If you're considering this for the Golden Age of Sail game, I personally would enjoy trying it out. I see no reason it shouldn't work (assuming player buy-in).
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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Sounds kinda like the quest format we do over on SB, SV and QQ forums mixed with the standard play by post thing.

    In quests, the DM writes the story and normally there's only one character controlled. dice rolls (if any) and narrative is wholly in the DM's hands, the players merely guide the path with the end of post vote, which depending on the writer varies from the super granular to kinda vague steering towards a goal. The vote's usually more key to the narrative than the occasional diceroll.

    For example, there was a quest where the players were directly disembodied voices inside a teenage superhero's head, and the players voted to be super honest with her about her future rather than muck about with subterfuge and meddling with her. Which lead to her being suspicious but more trusting in the end.

    with multiple characters... the upkeep is a bit messier to keep track of things, but it can be done. Scrap the dice rolls entirely, and do it in votes instead, I say.
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  14. - Top - End - #14
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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    Playing without rolls is not recommended. Rolls make the experience far better. If rolls aren't good enough, I suggest adding butter or jam to your rolls to add extra flavor. Alternatively, if you just cannot have rolls, may I suggest biscuits or baked bread as viable alternatives?
    Heh. Thank you for the advice

    Quote Originally Posted by jjordan View Post
    I've thought about this in the past and haven't found a solution that makes me happy. But I'll suggest some compromise elements.

    Have each player declare an overall goal for the combat. E.G. Stay alive and kill as many opponents as possible. Get to the door and prevent any opponents from escaping. Keep the princess alive.

    Have each player provide a more verbose description for each round. E.G. I will cast magic-missile at the opponent who looks the strongest and then move to the nearest cover. I am trying to stay out of melee engagement so I can continue to attack with my distance weapons.

    As much as possible agree on a standard format to make it easier for the DM to read and to help prevent the players from forgetting something.

    Set a time limit. If the players fail to declare specific actions for the round within the allotted time you decide what they do based on their declared overall goal. If they haven't set an overall goal then they are surprised.

    Roll the dice. It introduces a necessary layer of chance to the game.

    Summarize what happened during the round in one or two paragraphs, be descriptive.

    This is still a somewhat involved process but if you have 5 players you need 5 different sets of communications to complete a single round. This process cuts that down by a factor of 5 and allows you to be quicker while still retaining a good degree of player agency.

    Interested to read what others have to say on this.
    So this is overall helpful, and I definitely agree that it would require clear and detailed posts from the players involved to have any chance of working.

    You say roll the dice because it adds a necessary element of chance but my issue is I don't think chance is necessary for a good story and I've seen dice destroy player agency and good plans for no reason other than the dice are fickle. If players make a good plan and we assume that their characters are competent then unless they failed to account for something, or overestimated their abilities, I argue that things should go in their favor. I realize that people play all kinds of games and I'm not trying to say that anyone is having bad or wrong fun, but I've never played in a game where the goal was anything other than to see the party succeed.

    Also the comment made me thing of something. I was recently listening to the end of Changes in the Dresden Files. Without giving away spoilers (because everyone should definitely read those books) the titular hero has led a cadre of his closest allies into the lion's den and things are getting grim. Harry (said hero) looks at one of his friends and considers taking an action that would give her a 50/50 chance of survival/escape. Now from a narrative perspective that's fine and adds tension and drama to the story, but if this were a roleplaying group sitting around a table and someone actually had to roll that chance and live with the consequences to the story, one way or the other it seems horrible and like something the GM should definitely fudge behind the screen, maybe treating a "death" result as some sort of injury or obstacle rather than just looking at the player and relaying that "well the dice said you've died horribly."

    Quote Originally Posted by Dimers View Post
    If you're considering this for the Golden Age of Sail game, I personally would enjoy trying it out. I see no reason it shouldn't work (assuming player buy-in).
    No, no. I was planning to pair this with one of Piazo's APs, Rise of the Runelords or Curse of the Crimson Throne. Something with a strong defined plot that can be influenced by character decisions. I don't think this would work well for something that is purely character driven like the Sails game because there will be too many disparate goals. I have a feeling that this will need a grand narrative to drive it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Malphegor View Post
    Sounds kinda like the quest format we do over on SB, SV and QQ forums mixed with the standard play by post thing.

    In quests, the DM writes the story and normally there's only one character controlled. dice rolls (if any) and narrative is wholly in the DM's hands, the players merely guide the path with the end of post vote, which depending on the writer varies from the super granular to kinda vague steering towards a goal. The vote's usually more key to the narrative than the occasional diceroll.

    For example, there was a quest where the players were directly disembodied voices inside a teenage superhero's head, and the players voted to be super honest with her about her future rather than muck about with subterfuge and meddling with her. Which lead to her being suspicious but more trusting in the end.

    with multiple characters... the upkeep is a bit messier to keep track of things, but it can be done. Scrap the dice rolls entirely, and do it in votes instead, I say.
    SB, SV, and QQ?

    Maybe I'll go lurk in these places to form ideas.... Or possibly run the game myself with people voting on what the party does..... Please enlighten me on the where and the how.

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    Planetar

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by TheBarbecueChip View Post

    SB, SV, and QQ?
    Those acronyms refer to the Spacebattles, Sufficient Velocity, and Questionable Questing forums. Simply googling those words should lead you there.

    Spacebattles is the oldest site, and is mostly known for various non-RPG things like creative writing, fanfiction, political debates and sci-fi powerlevel arguments. It has quests where people vote for what to do every round, but in my experience Sufficient Velocity is a far better website for people looking for quests. And if you want online play-by-post gaming, quests are indeed what you want.

    Beware: quests tend to have their own rule systems. A lot of quests are based on various management/administration games, or variants on a video game called Crusader Kings II which seems to be very popular.
    There are quests that run on the D&D 3.5 rules : check out "A Sword Without A Hilt" by DragonParadox, which is currently a high-powered D&D game where the main character just hit level 16. I'm not saying it doesn't have houserules (crafting doesn't cost XP, a few custom high-powered PrCs were made for various reasons), but it runs standard D&D combat round-by-round. This is possible thanks to DragonParadox's rapid update rate : he writes about 3000 words a day, split in roughly 3 updates (morning, lunch, evening). In combat, the players vote for what everyone wants to do, then it's rolled and written up as an update, and then they vote again if the fight isn't over yet. This works well because most fights are rocket tag, and because votes explicitly explain their intent so that DragonParadox can handle small changes or positioning issues without having to call for a vote unless the round was important.
    Not everyone votes each time, too. People have differing schedules, so crucial votes are often left overnight and in-combat votes are often done in the morning or at midday to make fights drag less even though it means fewer active players (as everyone is sharing one character and voting on what he should do and how he should direct his team, it works out).
    I'm not sure how well I'm describing it, so I suggest visiting and trying to read through the threadmarks. Or making an account and asking a few questions, the players there are quite friendly. [Yes, I'm one]

    I'm not linking or describing Questionable Questing, because I don't know much about it. It has quests and such (it was created as a mirror for SV, but without the rules) but as far as I know it's all just explicit sex and/or gore. Linking to it directly is forbidden on SB or SV : most content on QQ horribly violates site rules.
    Last edited by TalonOfAnathrax; 2019-05-26 at 05:49 PM.

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by TalonOfAnathrax View Post
    Those acronyms refer to the Spacebattles, Sufficient Velocity, and Questionable Questing forums. Simply googling those words should lead you there.

    Spacebattles is the oldest site, and is mostly known for various non-RPG things like creative writing, fanfiction, political debates and sci-fi powerlevel arguments. It has quests where people vote for what to do every round, but in my experience Sufficient Velocity is a far better website for people looking for quests. And if you want online play-by-post gaming, quests are indeed what you want.

    Beware: quests tend to have their own rule systems. A lot of quests are based on various management/administration games, or variants on a video game called Crusader Kings II which seems to be very popular.
    There are quests that run on the D&D 3.5 rules : check out "A Sword Without A Hilt" by DragonParadox, which is currently a high-powered D&D game where the main character just hit level 16. I'm not saying it doesn't have houserules (crafting doesn't cost XP, a few custom high-powered PrCs were made for various reasons), but it runs standard D&D combat round-by-round. This is possible thanks to DragonParadox's rapid update rate : he writes about 3000 words a day, split in roughly 3 updates (morning, lunch, evening). In combat, the players vote for what everyone wants to do, then it's rolled and written up as an update, and then they vote again if the fight isn't over yet. This works well because most fights are rocket tag, and because votes explicitly explain their intent so that DragonParadox can handle small changes or positioning issues without having to call for a vote unless the round was important.
    Not everyone votes each time, too. People have differing schedules, so crucial votes are often left overnight and in-combat votes are often done in the morning or at midday to make fights drag less even though it means fewer active players (as everyone is sharing one character and voting on what he should do and how he should direct his team, it works out).
    I'm not sure how well I'm describing it, so I suggest visiting and trying to read through the threadmarks. Or making an account and asking a few questions, the players there are quite friendly. [Yes, I'm one]

    I'm not linking or describing Questionable Questing, because I don't know much about it. It has quests and such (it was created as a mirror for SV, but without the rules) but as far as I know it's all just explicit sex and/or gore. Linking to it directly is forbidden on SB or SV : most content on QQ horribly violates site rules.
    Thank you. Time for some digital legwork.

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    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by Calthropstu View Post
    Playing without rolls is not recommended. Rolls make the experience far better. If rolls aren't good enough, I suggest adding butter or jam to your rolls to add extra flavor. Alternatively, if you just cannot have rolls, may I suggest biscuits or baked bread as viable alternatives?
    If you can find it, Mixed Fruit Jelly.

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    Planetar

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by RNightstalker View Post
    If you can find it, Mixed Fruit Jelly.
    Yeah, it's a pain that the company which makes Mixed Fruit Jelly went out of business fifteen years ago. It has a spiritual successor, Fruit Salad, but it's just not the same.

  19. - Top - End - #19
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    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by Saintheart View Post
    Yeah, it's a pain that the company which makes Mixed Fruit Jelly went out of business fifteen years ago. It has a spiritual successor, Fruit Salad, but it's just not the same.
    How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master.

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    Daemon

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by RNightstalker View Post
    How true it is that a servant is not greater than the master.
    Except when the circle is complete and you have now become the master.

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    RangerGuy

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyutaru View Post
    Except when the circle is complete and you have now become the master.
    That is if you're the learner.

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    RedWizardGuy

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    Default Re: Play by Post Combat Without Rolls

    Quote Originally Posted by RNightstalker View Post
    That is if you're the learner.
    Problem solved.

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