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Reference The Systems Analyst - adapting tabletop RPGs to Play-by-Post in the RPF

Discussion in 'Role Playing Resource' started by Saintheart, Dec 22, 2009.

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  1. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    The Systems Analyst ? adapting tabletop RPGs to PbP

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    Welcome! The purpose of this thread is to for people to discuss an important subgenre of game design in the RPF ? turning a tabletop RPG system of any kind into a game that can be played on the RPF.

    You?re in the wrong place if:
    - You just want feedback on a freeform game you?ve designed and are looking to set up. That belongs in the Game Designers? Group.
    - You just want to know how to run a freeform game you?ve designed. That belongs in the Game Masters? Group.
    - You want to discuss hardcore gaming theory and gaming philosophy. That belongs in the Gaming Theory and Philosophy thread (naturally).
    - You want to generally discuss the Star Wars d20 system. That belongs in the General Star Wars d20 discussion thread.

    You?re in the right place if:
    (1) You?re looking for advice or thoughts on using any tabletop RPG system in a game to be hosted on the RPF. We do that here.
    (2) You?re looking for advice on how best to set up such a game.
    (3) You?d like to share the pros and cons of running a particular tabletop RPG system on the RPF, or indeed on a post-by-post message board.

    So who runs this thing?
    Nobody, really. But seeing as I, Saintheart, was the guy responsible for starting the thread, I can give a commitment to keep an eye on the thread and try and see that it stays on topic and relevant. We?re basically here to promote and help people convert tabletop games into a format that can be played on the RPF, so that?s what we really want to do out here. So, if you don?t mind, keep it practical, keep it helpful, and keep it funny. :D

    Given the basic nature of these forums, I?m hoping I?ll see some input from people as to how they incorporate the different Star Wars RPGs (d20 or WEG) into a post-by-post forum, together with some insights for people who want to do the same, but let me also emphasise that other RPG systems are up for discussion as well. I?ll be doing a piece on D&D 3.5 in due course, but if you?ve got a good way to run GURPS, Vampire: the Masquerade, RIFTS, Matrix, Men in Black, Pendragon, etc etc, in the play by post mode, let us know all about it!
  2. LordTroepfchen

    LordTroepfchen Jedi Master star 4

    Apr 9, 2007
    Oh what a splendid idea, Saint. So, I put some thought into this lately. Knowing I won´t have time to do it, I actually allowed thoughts to run wild and planned on eventually creating a philosophy article. Something which I might reconsider and instead add my observations here.

    First thing I realized there are systems of two huge categories. Popular systems and easy to implement systems. Despite that every system can be transformed into a pbp system, if enough effort is brought in. Tides of Flames (Saintheart and as his Co Lightwarden) did it with the surely not easy to do AD&D system, one of the most complicated out there.

    Lightwarden´s Casino Royale and DarkLordoftheFins Dark Odyssey both used the Wizards Star Wars 2nd Edition as background rules. At least Odyssey, which I experienced first hand, mae good use of it, making especially duels much more interesting.

    In the Games Section the same DarkLordoftheFins started The Vulture´s Talon in a mostly accurate d6 system. There is a second untitled adventure running right now under the Saga Rules. Other boards have much more extensive games like that. Reign of Steel (GURPs) and Monomyth(Deceiver), both from former or current users of these boards come to mind.

    Other examples worth looking at.

    White Wolf´s World of Darkness

    The IIRC-Chat RP based in St. Louis was one of the greatest if not THE GREATEST system based RP on the net I have become aware of. In it´s heydays it had 50 Mods and hundreds of players. It was chaotic, it was fun, it brough forth some incredible stuff. Especially it was somehow working. Not always, but most of the time. Working. The Storyteller System is easy to simplyfy, well tested and excellent in it´s balance of depth and playability. While I do not want to repeat the argument if it was the best system to this day, I think it has it´s merits.
    ManInBlack had a Mage system (which has some rather hard to swallow additions to the usual storyteller idea) in the GDG a few weeks ago. I had an Vampire: The Masquerade good to go, a fe motnh back. Then two other Vampire games made their entrance and I ended up throwing it onto my Waiting List of Doom.


    Gurps has brought forth many games and there are even few Gurps PbP guidleines out there. Some of the major projects around 2005 used Gurps. Even though the franchise seems to be on a fighting retreat, it is worth thinking about. At least one game I admire a lot uses these systems which seem to be streamlined, complex enough and workable for instant joiners of the game to operate. I´ll try to get their GM to post here, as he is occassional member of the board.

    R.Talsorian´s Cyberpunk
    I remember we talked about using it for Beyond, when I was still attached to the now dead game in 2008. It is a very fast system, using little dices and extra rules outside the difficulty evaluation. Therefore the GM creates one number eating most of the special rules and one throw against it makes it all a deal. The damage system might be hard to implement. Despite being the greatest strength of it. But on the first look I actually think the Cyberpunk-System is the most promising System for all games dealing with no supernatural elements. Zombie splattering, hard boiled detectives, action heroes and so on . . . can work perfectly fine here. Therefore I include it in my list. Even if it´s a lesser known system these days.

    Ars Magica

    This is a major system for magic use and wildly considered to be the, THE superior system of Magic Use. It has a fantastic casting system, but also deep arcane stuff and spell creation while totally getting rid of the "my-head-got-slots-and-I-got-none-free-to-read-anymore" idea of D&D. For magic use this is something to look into. I´ve seen it at use long time ago. But do not remember how the games did. Disliked the GM, to be honest.

    D&D/Ad&D 3.5, 4th Ed., 1Ed

    Well, we got a long running institution of rolepl
  3. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    Couple of important overarching notes:

    For those reading the thread, it's probably important for me to mention the RPF policy on tabletop RPGs being played on the RPF. Admittedly, this is the policy as from when I was moderating, so Xan and Hammer can certainly contradict me if they have a different viewpoint, but essentially ...

    (1) There's an element of overlap between the "literate" RPG storytelling we do here and the more "mechanical" RPG experience that happens over on the Role Players' forum. But it only relates to Star Wars RPGs, since that board does not allow NSWRPGs, period. Basically, the rule of thumb is that if you want to run a d20 or d6 Star Wars RPG on this forum, it requires at least some literary content - your updates can't simply be "Roll 14. Yep, you got him," or stuff like that; you need some sort of literary content to it.

    (2) By contrast, any non-Star Wars RPG (tabletop or otherwise) is perfectly able to be run on the NSWRPF board. I imagine Xan or Hammer would still frown on non-literate games, but in essence, if it ain't Star Wars RPG, you can run it on the NSWRPF without a problem.

    Running D&D 3.5e on the NSWRPF:
    Let me preface my remarks by saying that most of what follows proceeds from suggestions and adaptations that Lightwarden made to the game while I sat by, apprehensively watching. My apprehension proved to be unfounded, though; in every single case Light's suggestions proved to be right. It can also be evidenced (I think) by the fact that the RPG's been running for nearly two straight years now. May I also preface my remarks that some of what follows assumes at least a general knowledge of how D&D 3.5e works, with resulting jargon. I'm happy to try and explain it further if people are interested in it.

    Is it feasible?
    Running D&D 3.5e in a post-by-post format is not me trailblazing by any stretch of the imagination. In one form or another it's been going on for years. There are entire boards devoted to playing D&D in the PbP format; Giant in the Playground is probably one of the more significant ones. I agree it takes a bit of work to do it, but I would posit that the preparation and work involved is actually not that different to preparing for a tabletop D&D session. Having said that, it does involve some conversion and some messing around with the rules to do it.

    Stuff you need to do to make it work:

    (1) Restrict your player base down to 6 or less. I run ?Tide of Flames? with 8 spots open, and whilst I?ve thoroughly enjoyed the experience, if I had to do it again I?d probably keep it down to 6. Two reasons for that:

    (a) Most published adventures (more about that later) generally assume a party no larger than 6, and are capable of being run with 4 players. Let?s remember an archetypical party of four has the four ?pillars? of character in the thief, the fighter, the arcane spellcaster, and the divine spellcaster. When you start taking more than 6 players, it means you?ll generally have to retool some, if not all, of your encounters in the adventure so they present a challenge to the players. Above 6, players having vastly more resources and abilities than your average monster, the game can become a simple case of the players' strategy coming down to repeatedly using overwhelming force against their opponents, with some characters never being threatened by the opposition. This, of course, is a good thing from the characters? standpoint, but from a fun perspective I don?t think it works.

    (b) Updating issues. Combat, as you?ll see below, takes a while no matter how many people you?ve got in the game. But having 8 or more starts to make it pretty unwieldy, especially if one person vanishes during combat. It?s also harder for people to feel useful outside combat if there?s too many players, as well; there?s only so many skill or ability checks you can plausibly make before people start to feel as if they aren?t contributing. I?ve had a hard(ish) time keeping slots 7 and 8 filled in Tide of F
  4. LightWarden

    LightWarden Jedi Master star 4

    Oct 11, 2001
    Yeah, as I said when we started, we should have kept it down to six. Oh well. Anyways, I remain unconvinced that removing AoOs from the game was a good idea. You were doing the combat updates and thus it was your responsibility and your call to make, but AoOs basically mean you did something stupid in front of a guy with a weapon, and are a pretty essential part for making weapon-based users a credible threat on the battlefield with an area-control option other than begging. Allowing people to break away from melee at-will without penalty shifts things even more in favor of the already perpetually blessed casters. Sure they could make a Spellcraft/Concentration check, or they could just stroll away and cast the spell from a distance with no penalty. It doesn't hobble them any more than putting up a sign saying "please don't steal" counts as an effective security measure. Skirmishing is already a real tactic with Spring Attack and such, we probably should have put in a line about charging ending your movement for the turn to prevent the "charge, then back up" strategy, which is pretty dumb, though "back-up and get a running start" isn't too bad since it at least makes some sense (and AoOs would make it make even more sense so you don't have the guy just standing there watching while his opponent climbs up on to the ropes).

    Other points: Cross-class skills are (level +3)/2, not (level/2)+3. Making characters more powerful than average isn't something you should do with just PbP, it's something you should do with any game of D&D. Rolling HP sucks and I don't know any DM who makes you do that, feats at every 3rd level make a bit of sense when you just have the PHB, but not when there are literally [link=]3300[/link] feats in 3e. The "oh, you've got five rounds to save me" thing is boring, as is not giving people more than one ability point to boost scores with, since they're obligated to boost their primary stat every time in order to stay relevant, and giving them an extra point lets them make things more interesting. Letting people have multiple weapon choices is just better heroism, and I'd actually go even further with action points and institute a "1 per day per five levels" policy simply because I hate consumable resources and the book-keeping involved.
  5. Saintheart

    Saintheart Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Dec 16, 2000
    Online dice rollers

    Not as easy to find as you might think. Well, the ones that are most useful for play-by-post games. There's plenty of them around for IRC-style gaming.

    The main reason you have these things is to keep players accountable, if not yourself. For a post-by-post format the best kind of roller is the kind that generates an individual website for a given player and his rolls, and keeps a history; that way you can check the history of rolls, which makes it impossible to go for the old "keep on rolling until I've got an array of 18s."

    Two sites I've found which do the job:
    [link=]Invisible Castle[/link] ... the original and the biggie, although it seems to get buggy now and then.
    There's also [link=]this dice roller which does much the same thing[/link] but on a much, much simpler scale.

    Giant in the Playground, being a true D&D board, also has a function built into the board system that allows you to make rolls online, and is similarly nigh-impossible to cheat because of the way the system is built. Having said that, you're more or less obliged to play on their boards if you use their rolling system.
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